Chicago Institute of Design landmark of American design education

Ink Dot Portrait of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy
Ink Dot Portrait of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

In Chicago, the Institute of Design was established by László Moholy-Nagy in 1939, following several short-lived precedents beginning with the New Bauhaus in Chicago, established in 1937 under the direction of Moholy-Nagy, with Walter Gropius, a former member of the Bauhaus, as a consultant.

Although sponsored by the Association of Arts and Industries, the level of financial support was insufficient to prevent the institution’s closure in 1938. In the following year, Moholy-Nagy founded the School of Design in Chicago, providing his financial support to former New Bauhaus colleagues.

The Chicago industrialist Walter P. Paepcke, the founder of the design-conscious Container Corporation of America, whose commitment has maintained the institution’s financial viability for some years, was also crucial in terms of funding. The new school was an essential landmark in American design education, imbued with the spirit of the German Bauhaus and its legacy of the fusion of art, science and technology, as seen in the posthumous book of Moholy-Nagy, Vision in Motion (1947).

In 1944, the name of the institution changed to that of the Institute of Design, and in 1946, following the death of Moholy-Nagy, Serge Chermayeff was appointed a new director. In 1949, the Institute of Design was incorporated into the Illinois Institute of Design in Chicago and was granted university status. After a short interregnum following Chermayeff’s resignation in 1951, Jay Doblin was appointed the new head of the Institute, with four significant visual design departments, product design, photography and art education providing students with a focus after completing the compulsory foundation course.


Woodham, J. (2004). Institute of Design. In A Dictionary of Modern Design. : Oxford University Press. Retrieved 10 Feb. 2021, from

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